The Democrats fighting for the presidential nomination may be continuing to debate over the contours of healthcare and trade policies, but they all expressed agreement tonight in getting the troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Five of the candidates were asked tonight about the military situation in Afghanistan, given President Donald Trump's recent aborted peace talks with representatives of the Taliban. They didn't really get into Trump's proposal, but they all made it abundantly clear that they want to bring our troops home and end 18 years of war.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) was asked first if she would bring troops home even though military advisers and generals are concerned about what would happen to Afghanistan's stability if the troops were to leave. She was clear that her intention was to pull out.
"What we're doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the country," Warren said. "We need to bring our troops home.…We are not going to bomb our way to a solution with Afghanistan.…The problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by the military. We need to work with the rest of the world."
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Naval Reserve veteran who was deployed in Afghanistan in 2014, reiterated his position from the July debate that he would bring the troops home within a year of taking office. He noted, that there are now people who were born after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks who are now old enough to join the military.
"The best way not to get caught up in endless wars is to not start them in the first place," he said. He also repeated his proposal that all future congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolutions should have an automatic three-year sunset to prevent future "forever wars."
Former Vice President Joe Biden was asked if it was a mistake for former President Barack Obama's administration to pull back troops from Iraq, given that it created a vacuum for the Islamic State to exploit. He gave a blunt word salad of a response where he acknowledged it was a mistake for him to have voted in favor of the AUMF to invade Iraq but essentially laid the blame on the Bush administration for not having a plan. He also agreed with the other candidates to get out of Afghanistan.
"It cannot be put together," he said. "It will not be put together.…We don't need those troops there and I would bring them home." He called for keeping military bases in Pakistan that can be used as needed to respond to any threats that Afghanistan might still present.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) prodded at Biden a bit because, unlike Biden, he voted against military action overseas. Sanders also reminded voters he has voted against the last three military budgets and wants to bring the troops home.
"I don't think we have to spend $750 billion on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is," Sanders said.
And finally, Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur, was asked to explain what would make him a good commander in chief of the military. He said he signed a pledge to end "the forever wars."
"We have to start owning what we can and can't do," Yang said. "The goal has to be to rebuild the relationships that made America strong."
So the three front-runners (and Yang and Buttigieg) all say they will bring the troops home. That's good news. The bad news is that Obama and Trump also promised to end the wars and bring the troops home.